David McAllister stepping down from Australian Ballet
The artistic director of the Australian Ballet, David McAllister, has announced he is stepping down after two decades in the role.
Australian Ballet chairman Craig Dunn announced the news at the company’s annual general meeting in Melbourne today.
“David has taken The Australian Ballet to new heights during his two decades as artistic director,” Dunn said. “His leadership of the company has been extraordinarily successful and he will leave an enduring legacy.”
McAllister will finish up at the end of next year, which will be his 20th year at the helm of Australia’s national ballet company. Dunn said there was a “succession-planning process” under way.
Of his decision to step down, McAllister said he felt “thrilled” it was finally out in the open.
“It has been a huge day. This has been a process that I have been working with the chair on for a couple of years and I am thrilled to be able to share the news more widely,” he said. “I feel that it is a perfect time for the company and I to look to the future and I feel honoured to have been a part of The Australian Ballet both as a student, dancer and artistic director for what will be 40 years when I leave at the end of 2020.
“It is going to be a wonderful 18 months to enjoy my time with the company and I look forward to handing on a vibrant, talented and creative company to the next artistic leader.”
McAllister began his career at the Australian Ballet in 1983. He was promoted to principal artist six years later and, in 2001, made the transition from dancer to artistic director of the Australian Ballet.
Queensland Ballet artistic director, Li Cunxin, who danced with Mr McAllister at the Australian Ballet, said the company would always bear the mark of its longest serving artistic director.
“I think there will be two areas in particular where you will see his mark,” Li said. “Obviously as a dancer he left his mark, because he really was a wonderful dancer and he had a very successful career dancing. The other area is as an artistic director … he has really grown that company and steered the company to a wonderful success.
“Not many artists have that kind of privilege to be incredibly successful as a dancer and incredibly successful as an artistic director. To do both at the same company is even rarer.”
Celebrated Australian choreographer Graeme Murphy, who has created a number of ballets for the Australian Ballet, said McAllister could retire with a clear conscience knowing he leaves the company in a better state than he found it.
“He has been a great champion of choreographers, which makes me very fond of him, he has produced beautiful dances and he has moved the company on in many, many ways, from financial to creative,” Murphy said.
David McAllister. “This is a company that had international success, has produced beautiful principles, increased audiences and has kept pushing boundries. He has balanced blockbuster ballets with new works and there has been growth, and that is possibly the most important, because in the arts the worst thing you can do is to stay static.”
The Sydney Morning Herald‘s veteran dance critic Jill Sykes said McAllister’s greatest legacy would be the quality of the dancers under his leadership.
“David McAllister’s legacy of two decades is an outstandingly talented and skilful group of dancers, for which he is to be congratulated. Their technical ability has gone far beyond that of the company he inherited,” she said.
McAllister will program the 2020 season, to be announced in September this year, and the search will now begin for a replacement.
Many in the industry feel Li would be an ideal replacement for McAllister, to the detriment of Queensalnd Ballet, however Li said he was not interested in the role.
Murphy has also ruled himself out of throwing his hat in the ring.
“I don’t have a hat and if I did I wouldn’t be throwing it anywhere,” he said.
Sykes said the search should focus on talent who can bring excitement to the company.
“I would hope the company’s new director might offer more excitement of choice in works and choreographers,” she said.